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Amazon's Alexa Calling feature doesn't let you choose who can contact you

Shortly after revealing the new touchscreen-touting, Alexa-enabled Echo Show, Amazon announced a new service called Alexa Calling & Messaging that lets users send audio messages and place calls using Alexa-enable devices and the Amazon Alexa app.

I, like many of my acquaintances, immediately updated my Alexa app and enabled the service. The process requires you to send your contacts to Amazon so it can link you up with any of your contacts who are also using Alexa Calling & Messaging. Once you've enabled the service and logged in, you see a list of the people you can bug with Alexa Calls and Messages. It's fun! … or at least it's fun until you read an article on The Verge that says anyone with your contact information can call you and send you messages and there's nothing you can do about it.

Amazon Echo-owner Elise Oras put together a blog post after she discovered the privacy problem. Here she explains what happened after she set up the new calling service:

Every contact that also has the Alexa app is now in my Alexa Calling contacts. Among my contacts were old landlords, many co-workers, random vendor account managers, city councilmen, and of course, crazy ex-boyfriends. And each one now has a direct line into my home.

Yeah, no bueno. So she contacted Amazon Support on Twitter to figure out how to fix the problem:

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Yeah, really no bueno. And it turns out it isn't easy to disable Alexa Calling & Messaging on your Alexa-enabled devices. It's baffling Amazon didn't include a way to whitelist or block contacts before it shipped this product, but hopefully the attention this privacy problem receives will have Amazon developers springing into action to fix it up.

Thoughts?

What's your take on this privacy problem? Should Amazon have thought to include the feature before shipping? Sound off in the comments!

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

4 Comments
  • I tweeted this the second I tried to open the app, and there was no "cancel" button. I don't like to be forced to use features. I hope they apologize, a bunch of people will do this by accident. Amazon is pulling a Microsoft with Windows 10.
  • I installed the Alexa update and felt like contact syncing was all-or-nothing, so I chose nothing. I'm not about to give Amazon my contact list. They don't need to know all the people I've communicated with and saved to my phone, over the years, like so many other people are collecting. Although, I doubt this will make a difference. If anybody else has me in their contact list and uploads it to Amazon, they'll still have access to me. What I didn't like is that the only way to contact someone is by providing your entire contact list to Amazon. There's no option to manually add a contact.
  • me too. I got to contacts and thought "NOPE!" and i stopped right there. Glad I did. And i have a firetv only so i probably wouldn't have worked anyways because several Alexa things don't work on it. Plus it's on a tv; I'd be livid if every few minutes my tv programs were interrupted by calls or texts.
  • I refuse to use these devices, period.